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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has launched a formal investigation into the DWP’s fake news universal credit (UC) campaign, anti-poverty charity Z2K has confirmed.

The charity was the first of more than 40 organisations and individuals to complain to the ASA about adverts running in the Metro, in other publications and online.

The DWP have tried to mislead claimants by publishing adverts disguised as news items which praise UC.

In a leaked memo, Universal Credit Director General Neil Couling boasted that people would not be able to tell that the nine weeks of fake features were written by the DWP and would instead “wonder who has done this ‘UC Uncovered’ investigation.”

Z2K says that the ASA are investigating four different issues relating to the adverts:

Whether the ads are obviously identifiable as marketing communications from the DWP.

Whether the claim “MYTH Universal Credit doesn’t work FACT It does. People move into work faster on Universal Credit than they did on the old system” is misleading.

Whether the claim “MYTH You have to wait 5 weeks to get any money on Universal Credit FACT If you need money, your jobcentre will urgently pay you an advance” is misleading and omits significant restrictions that are likely to affect a person’s decision to apply for Universal Credit.

Whether the claim “MYTH Universal Credit makes it harder to pay your rent on time FACT Your Jobcentre can give you an advance payment and pay rent directly to landlords” is misleading and omits significant restrictions that are likely to affect a person’s decision to apply for Universal Credit.

The DWP could choose to pause the ads until the ASA has completed its investigation. Instead it is pressing ahead and denying there are any grounds for concern.

Meanwhile. Disability News Service reports that disabled activists claim to have removed hundreds of thousands of copies of the free Metro newspaper from distribution points around the country.

A Sheffield DPAC spokesperson said transport workers were now alerting activists to let them know when and where Metros were being delivered so they could be removed and recycled.

She said:

“The campaign has grown from a small protest in Sheffield to a well coordinated and incredibly effective national campaign that has seen hundreds of thousands of copies of the Metro now removed from stands and sent for recycling in just a matter of weeks.

“Initially we were removing them by hand, which was exhausting. Now we’ve got hired vans and large numbers of people removing huge amounts relatively effortlessly.

We’ll keep readers informed about the outcome of the investigation.

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